A welcome change

Published 11:15 pm Friday, July 27, 2012

A tip of the hat to the City of Washington for taking a new direction when it comes to how it will pursue economic-development opportunities in the future.
Instead of handing over about $90,000 each fiscal year to the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission for economic-development efforts in the county, the city is exploring another option.
Under the formula in place for several years, the county provided 65 percent (about $190,000) of the EDC’s annual operating budget, with the city kicking in 35 percent (about $90,000). Other municipalities were expected to contribute about $6 a person toward that budget.
During its meeting Monday, the council said it prefers the option under which it would set aside funds for economic-development in each fiscal year’s budget, with the city deciding how that money would be spent. That option calls for the county funding the EDC, but that option does not rule out the city providing funds for EDC projects — if the city deems them worthy of city participation.
City leaders believe such an approach provides more flexibility when it comes to economic development.
When it adopted the city’s 2012-2013 budget in June, the council reduced the amount of money the city had been giving the EDC by $30,000. During its meeting Monday, the council OK’d spending up to $30,000 to hire Retail Strategies as a consultant to assist the city with retail recruitment and retention efforts. In previous meetings, the council and city staff discussed the city’s intention to develop a retail/commercial recruitment and retention program.
A new approach is much needed and the city is wise to pursue new strategies to maximize its investment in economic development.
The city’s departure from the economic-development status quo is encouraging. Let’s hope it provides the desired results.